Judge Dredd Megazine (#432 – 438) – Various

3 out of 5

The Dredd spot finishes off a solid two-parter from Ken Niemand – Don’t Drokk With Bob with very rich, heavy art from Ian Richardson. These are the kinds of standalone Dredd tales I love, where the tone and characters feel balanced throughout – the world has its laws but is unjust; Dredd is strict but with notes of understanding.

After this, we got to Rory McConville’s and Staz Johnson’s Project Providence, which never quite comes together for me. McConville stitches together a story of Sino-Cit undercover agents and past crimes, and I had a lot of trouble, month to month, keeping it all straight. The theme of retribution also kept getting mixed in my mind with a similarly-themed Dredd happening in the prog at the same time. The monthly publishing schedule for the Meg is tough – the extra page space encourages more complex tales, but because of that, it can be hard to maintain a throughline with the 30-day gaps, especially when you have those characters playing around weekly in 2000 AD. But I also think this was a notably more twisty tale in general, with the focus constantly changing – something it’d be better to read in a collected version, maybe some day.

There’s a bit of a coda to this, and then we get a really surreal, haunting entry from Niemand again (Colin MacNeil on art, looking great in Chris Blythe’s colors), and, finally, a super inventive and hilarious bit of sci-fi extrapolation from Ian Edginton and Dave Taylor, with the latter proving he can do comedic beats – not something I expected from his meaty, European style.

Devlin Waugh: The Reckoning, from the now regular team of Ales Kot and Mike Dowling. This… damn dragged. I still respect what Kot and Dowling have built this strip in to, and there’s definitely a ton of payoff here (with a soccer punchline being executed perfectly), but Dowling really, really, really, really starts to lean into the square, repeated panels of talking heads too much, and Kot’s attempts at adding further emotional heft between Devlin and Titi feels too cheesy, here. Like, logistically, it makes sense in the story, but Titi’s arc from a personality perspective has felt forced. And the “conclusion” here – Devlin fighting it out in hell for, essentially, Titi’s soul – is stretched out beyond a breaking point, losing its momentum.

Diamond Dogs returns – James Peaty and Warren Pleace. I’ll preface as I have been: haven’t been a fan of Peaty’s work, which I find to not step outside the realm of the predictable and cliche. This arc has some pep with a “getting the band back together” format, as Nia reforms her old Diamond Dogs crew, but man, still really generic – by my opinion – down to some pretty predictable double crosses. Pleece does seem to settle into the look a bit more, though; there’s some added weight to his work here.

Angelic, from Gordon Rennie and Lee Carter. …Loving this. If I’m bias against Peaty, I know I’m bias for Rennie, but the dark, Western spin Rennie has added to the Angel Gang lore has been delightful stuff. Lee Carter’s art is a bit too “empty” for me on occasion, but it also serves the very isolated vibe of the strip really well, and this series has gained more weight as I’ve been catching up on Case Files and learning the Angel Gang history. In Restitution, The Varmint goes missing, sending Angel out on the hunt, through some pretty dangerous locales.

And The Returners concludes. The group is ready to return back home, which helps to give the strip a sense of focus I felt like its one-off adventures tended to lack. Matt Smith has to conclude the tale, given Si Spencer’s passing; the final chapter feels rather compressed in linking everything together, and I wonder if Spencer had this mapped out to go a little longer. Smith does a good job with it, maintaining the tone, and the way the characters are interrelated was actually interesting – I’d be curious to reread a run of these in a floppy at some point to see if you can spot that development along the way. Nicolo Assirelli once again increases the readability of the strip immensely, though, with bright, dynamic artwork; somehow more expressive than a lot of what we see in the Meg / prog – very “American.”

So a lot of inbetween stuff these months, but nothing I outright didn’t look forward to reading, and with a few clear highlights besides.